Robert le diable, Royal Opera House, London

Every show has a back-story, but this is more convoluted than most. With its Gothic effects – including a saucy ballet for ghostly nuns - and with its massive orchestral, vocal, and choreographic forces, Meyerbeer’s ‘Robert le diable’ quickly became the most popular opera in Europe after its 1831 premiere, yet this is its first London production since 1890.

Interview with a Pendle witch

Four centuries after the infamous witch trials of 1612, artist Joe Hesketh is a modern day Halloween witch from Pendle. Matilda Battersby meets her

The 10 Best umbrellas

With winter rains on the way, now is the time to invest in these wet-weather shields that will keep the damp away in style

Laura Marling, Royal Albert Hall, London

“We don’t do encores... If you want an encore then this is the last song, if you don’t, this is the second to last.” At a time when encores at gigs have become almost mandatory, and therefore meaningless, Laura Marling’s approach to them is refreshingly unconventional.

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To health, prosperity and settled hearts! Raising a glass to the

Fans of A Christmas Carol will recall that the story ends with a slap-up dinner at the Cratchit household, a half-circle around the hearth and the salutation: "God bless us every one!" from the crippled-but-plucky Tiny Tim. Modern-day parishioners of the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, know that his usual Christmas card salutation is "Health, prosperity and settled hearts." In Scotland, every household on New Year's Eve promises to "take a cup of kindness yet" in memory of long ago.